Professional Judgement

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)/CADA does not provide families with a place to explain special circumstances which may affect their ability to pay for the student's education. To remedy this, Congress has delegated to the school's financial aid administrator the authority to compensate for special circumstances on a case-by-case basis with supporting documentation.

Professional Judgment (PJ) refers to the authority of a school's financial aid administrator to adjust the data elements on the FAFSA (Income Reduction) and to override a student's dependency status (Dependency Override). Professional Judgment is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Income Reduction

An Income Reduction request is for students who believe there was a significant difference in income between the required FAFSA/CADA income and your most recently filed taxes. Extenuating circumstances may include but are not limited to involuntary loss of employment (termination, layoff), reduction or loss of untaxed income or benefits (unemployment, social security, etc.), discharge from military, or divorce of separation of student, spouse, mother or father. Students who wish to request an income reduction are required to contact the Financial Aid Office to start the online Income Reduction Appeal process.

Dependency Override

A dependency override can be used to make a dependent student an independent student for the purposes of awarding aid. However, a dependency override cannot be used to make an independent student a dependent student. If a student is granted a dependency override, the parent’s information and signature will not be provided on the FAFSA application.

The following are examples of circumstances that may merit a dependency override determination:

  • Abandonment by parents

  • Abusive family environment that ​threatens the student's health or safety

  • Student unable to location parents

  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents

  • Parents cannot be located

The following are examples of conditions or circumstances that do not merit a dependency override determination:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education

  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification

  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes

  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency

Students who wish to request a dependency override are required to contact the Financial Aid Office to get the dependency override packet.

Decisions to exercise professional judgment or a dependency override will be on a case-by-case basis and decisions regarding requests for adjustment are final and cannot be appealed. Overrides do not carry over from year to year. It is a student’s responsibility to provide sufficient documentation to prove their unusual circumstances.

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